This one’s from Plinky (I didn’t care for the NaBloPoMo prompt for today): “Describe your perfect Sunday morning.”
Perfect? That covers a lot of ground, but here goes:
I wake up early, no later than 6:00 a.m. and preferably around 5:00. Say some prayers, start pulling my thoughts together for the day. My husband gets up shortly after, and makes coffee. Note to Orthodox friends: I’m painfully aware that I shouldn’t be drinking coffee before receiving Communion, but I had such a struggle to get my husband to accept that I should be leaving the house without eating breakfast that several priests said I should just go ahead and have coffee with him.
We share a cup of coffee, then he makes his breakfast while I get ready for church. Outside, it’s Autumn, and the weather is cool and wet – not a downpour, but a steady shower. (Remember, we’re talking Perfect.) In a Perfect scenario, I actually get out of the house by 8:00 a.m.; realistically, it’s usually closer to 8:30, but I always try to get out by 8:00, and count my blessings if I’m out by 8:15.
It’s a ninety-minute drive to church. Other people in my neighborhood can get there in an hour, but they take the highway and speed like demons. I like to take a more direct route that involves back roads; it takes me longer, but I’m happy not to get to church in a frazzled state, having cursed out All Those Other Crazy Drivers, which is no way to go to church, anyway.
Nowadays it sounds so sanctimonious to say, “I go to church,” like you’re trying to convince people that you’re somehow better than those who sleep in or go for a jog or, I don’t know, get an early start on getting plastered. “Better” has nothing to do with it. Being pious has nothing to do with it. Church is so many things to me: a place where I can be my truest self, a place where I can meet like-minded people, a place where I can sing truly beautiful music – most of all, a place to encounter God.
My Perfect Sunday Morning would include my husband, but he refuses to drive in Massachusetts, even though, taking the route I take, we’re only in Massachusetts for about five miles of the drive, if that. I will admit that it’s the scariest part of the drive, since it involves going around a traffic circle under a highway, and people in New England aren’t too good about traffic circles – they always try to grab the right of way from the people in the circle, who actually do have the right of way. I find that using turn signals throws them long enough for me to exit safely; they aren’t too big on turn signals, either.
So when I visit my little Russian congregation, I go by myself. The music is already Perfect, since the entire Liturgy is sung and I don’t have to worry about some of the Protestant hymns that just grate on my ears (and the hymns used in the American Catholic Church are even worse. Beatles’ songs?! Really?!). We use arrangements either from the Octoechos, the Eight-Tone cycle of the Orthodox Church that’s akin to Gregorian chant, or we use compositions by classical composers like Bortniansky, Tchaikovsky, Kastalsky, Chesnokov (no Rachmaninoff, though I live in hope); there is a wonderful Lord’s Prayer by Stravinsky, of all people, and I’d love to sing that sometime.
After worship, there’s a social hour. It always involves food, and some of the meals can be quite elaborate, and very Russian; but there are also American dishes, since mine is primarily a convert parish. Most fun of all is getting to sit down and talk to people, though even if people are engaged in conversation that doesn’t include me, I can just sit and eat and listen in – the tables are long, refectory-style tables, not round tables that are used in some other parishes.
Finally, replete with good food, good conversation, and a sense of being refreshed and renewed to face the coming week, I get back into my car for the long drive home. In an absolutely Perfect world, the rain would keep all the Sunday shoppers home, so that my commute would be relatively quiet and peaceful; but I find that shoppers are out, regardless of the weather. The worst aspect of the commute is that there are only two routes to church: one is along a five-mile “shoppers’ paradise,” with the attendant horrible traffic, and the other is along a stretch of highway, being surrounded by cars speeding at 80 mph or better (around 135-140 kph), all making lightning lane switches at that insane rate of speed – there is no third route, that I’m aware of. But once I’m past that ten-mile stretch of stop and go, I’m back on my quiet country road, on my way home again.
PS: My husband informs me that if my parish were located in New Hampshire or Maine, he would come with me. So I don’t make this commute every week; every other week, I accompany him to a Greek parish. This does not fit my Perfect-Sunday scenario, so I won’t go into it here.